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Consumers of the world unite… you have nothing to lose but your minds

October 22, 2009

The BBC reports that Lord Peter Mandelson wants to encourage students to behave more like consumers. In reply to a question from a delegate at CBI higher education summit in London, he said:

As students who go into higher education pay more, they will expect more and are entitled to receive more in terms, not just of the range of courses, but in the quality of experience they receive during their time in the higher education system. If there is a degree of passivity then, I hope, that without rejoining our student population to take to the barricades, that they become pickier, choosier and more demanding consumers of the higher education experience.

…’take to the barricades’? No fear of that Mandy. Most consumers are more inclined to dawdle to the check-outs. It’s citizens that ‘take to barricades’. The pacific stupidity of consumerism prevents any such revolutionary impulses among students these days.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2009 11:18 pm

    Thing is Rab, most students are consumers, at least when they start. They’re buying a service which will give them better life chances in the vform of a better job – or so they think ( a lot of them are going to be wrong about that). & unless you poppped out of the womb a fully formed left-liberal ‘education-as-the-purpose-of-life’ type, so did you in all probability. You have to go back quite some way to find someone like me (now 51 – so 18 in 1976) who very self consciously went to University to avoid work because it was, by definition, boring. ( The 60s had a long backwash whewre i grew up…)

    What you’re job is, surely, is to show them they don’t have to be: education is a lot more than getting better life chances. Properly internalised, it’s getting a better life.

  2. Rabelais permalink*
    October 29, 2009 3:31 pm

    Rest assured Charlie that the nation’s youth are in safe hands, as I tell them in no uncertain terms that education is too important to be thought of as a commodity. They resist for awhile but their resistance is futile as I bludgeon them with Marx, Adorno and episodes of The Wire.

    But you are right, students are indeed consumers (God help us, we’re all consumers one way or another) but I think we should fight back against the commodification of education. The consumerist approach has had pretty dire consequences so far, not least in the way it has breed student passivity with regards to how they learn. They expect education and knowledge to be delivered in some sort of pre-packed commodity form that they can then privately possess and consume. The idea that education is something you might have work for; that there is a process by which knowledge is acquired is alien to many, for no consumer buys a new car and expects to have to assemble it themselves (unless IKEA is working on the concept of flat-pack cars).

  3. Dr. Disco permalink
    November 12, 2009 11:29 am

    Perhaps we should go back to the time when only upper class young gentleman with an indeterminate amount of time and a fistful of Papa’s money to squander could gain access to university.

    • Rabelais permalink*
      November 12, 2009 3:08 pm

      Dr D. I see what you are getting at. If it was only the upper class that went to university then we could safely drop bombs on those institutions without there being any collateral damage. Ex-ce-llent (Mr Burns-style).

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